It’s about time that we admit this to ourselves: working from home has become more than just a trend; it’s the new normal for companies and employees of all sizes across the world.
With this shift in the work environment, countless business owners, managers and leaders find themselves managing completely remote teams, maybe for the first time in their career. Are you one of them? The transition can be scary, especially if it’s the first time you do it, or if you didn’t have a lot of time to prepare to get the team (and everything else that comes with it) organized.
Although it is always preferable to establish access routines and distribute the many apps used by remote teams as well as establish clear policies and training in advance, under quickly changing circumstances, adequate preparation may not be feasible. Fortunately, there are best practices and tools that managers can use to improve the engagement and productivity of remote employees and teams.
Everyday Challenges of Working Remotely
Working remotely isn’t only challenging for business owners and managers, it also presents an entirely new set of factors that can make a normal day “at” work especially difficult for the team members. Let’s have a look at some of these challenges, and then we’ll dive into some suggested solutions.
Lack of Direct Supervision
This is a challenge not only for employees but also managers. Managers worry that employees will not work as hard and many employees struggle with limited access to managerial assistance.
Loss of Access to Information
Increased distance raises the amount of time it takes to receive and send responses. Usually, the biggest shock to a newly remote employee is the amount of time and effort it takes to locate information in shared folders or receive it directly from coworkers.
For the majority of remote employees, this is the toughest part of the job. While growing up and throughout their traditional career, employees are surrounded by team members, service workers, different departments and even different companies. This newfound isolation can cause an employee to lack a sense of “belonging”, which can end with an increased intention to leave the company.
In short: improper working conditions and kids. Just like many parents, children of all ages are domiciled at home to attend online classes. With this comes its own set of unique challenges; parents are now a parent, IT support, an employee, and any other role that needs to be filled throughout the very long and tiresome day. Aside from parenting, many employees are likely underprepared to have a full workstation setup at home. The distraction of a wobbly dining room chair or squeaky ceiling fan can result in many hours not being worked over the course of a few months.
Overcoming the Challenges
Fortunately, there are relatively quick and inexpensive things that business owners and managers can do to help their employees.
Collaborate as a Team
It’s a simple thing to do, but not every company is set up to remotely collaborate. To help transition to a remote environment, collaboration and transparency is the key. There are a number of productivity apps that make collaboration easier and that can help cement this new work-from-home culture amongst the team.
Have Regular Check-ins
Establishing regular communication with remote employees is critical. During your meetings it’s important that you listen just as much as you talk. As a manager and a leader, it’s important that your employees know that they can consult with you, receive guidance, and feel that their concerns and questions will be heard and responded to in a meaningful way.
Provide Several Communication Tools
Gone are the days of stopping by someone’s desk to clear up a question (at least for the foreseeable future). In order to maintain effective communication and productivity while working remotely, it’s paramount that you have at least three ways to communicate: email, instant messaging and video conferencing. However, something that’s often overlooked is to also make sure to provide guidance and instruction to your team on which tool to use for which form of communication.
Setup Virtual Team Socials
It might sound cheesy, but virtual hangouts help establish and maintain the team or company culture. Experienced virtual managers report that virtual socials help to reduce tension, feelings of isolation and promote a sense of belonging amongst the team. One of the easiest ways to establish some basic social interaction is to set aside a few minutes either at the beginning or end of meetings to talk about non-work related topics.
The bottom line
Even though working remotely puts both employees and managers in a tough position in many ways, there are clear and useful solutions available that will allow you and your team to both feel and perform your best. Take some time to investigate the best tools and create a routine. Services such as Desktop.com can be helpful for finding, organizing and distributing these tools to your team. With the right setup and the tips mentioned above, working remotely can actually end up providing both increased productivity and a better work-life-balance.